How to answer “walk me through your resume”
At some point during your time job hunting, you’ll hear a hiring manager say “walk me through your resume.” While this classic interview question sounds simple enough, it trips up more people than you might think. After all, where do you start?
Fortunately, if you know how to answer this question, it’s a great chance to sell yourself as a candidate by expanding on your background, qualifications, experience, and education. But if you’re answering this as a phone interview question, you’ll need to be especially succinct in your answers since the interview will be shorter than a sit-down interview.
To nail your response, start by breaking it down into three sections. Each section should highlight an aspect of your qualifications, and demonstrate why you’re the best candidate for the job. These three sections focus on your:
- Educational background
- Work history
- Long-term career goals
1. Summarize your educational background
Start walking the interviewer through your resume by giving a brief outline of your educational background. Focus on relevant coursework or projects you completed that relate to the job.
Remember that interviewers are only looking for information that highlights why you’re qualified for the position. What you shouldn’t do is provide them with a recap of your early education or your dreams as a child. Interviewers will only view such sentimental rambling as unfocused and irrelevant.
- Talk about specific accomplishments that show how qualified you are to do the job.
- Keep this part of the answer short if you’ve been out of school for more than a couple years.
- Ramble on about your childhood ambitions or early education.
- Mention every class you’ve ever taken.
2. Describe your work history
The next part (and arguably the most important) of your resume walkthrough is to explain your work history. If you already have at least a few years of work experience, this will make up the bulk of your response.
Briefly explain how you began your career, and what led you to this point. Focus on how you’ve progressed in your field, and what you’ve accomplished at previous jobs.
When talking about your work history, you should always:
- Use anecdotes that show your passion for the job you’re interviewing for
- Mention accomplishments that prove you have the skills to succeed at the job
- Research the company you’re interviewing at, and use your answer to highlight how your experience makes you capable of tackling the challenges it’s facing
What you shouldn’t do is mention every job you’ve ever held. Only discuss past positions that are directly relevant to the requirements of the job.
- Use examples that show your passion for the job.
- Mention your accomplishments.
- Research the company you’re interviewing at.
- Mention every job you’ve ever held.
- Talk negatively about your previous jobs.
3. Explain how this job fits into your long-term goals
Finish your answer by discussing how the job you’re interviewing for fits into your long-term career goals.
When talking about your goals, focus on why the company would benefit from you working there, not why the job would benefit you.
Employers want to know how you’ll help them achieve their goals and that you’re worth investing in. Showing them that your personal career goals align with the needs of the company is an easy way to convince them that you’d be a strong, long-term employee.
- Show the hiring manager that your personal career goals align with the needs of the company.
- Focus on why the company would benefit from you working there.
- Talk about why the job would personally benefit you.
- Ramble about your hopes and dreams.
Walk me through your resume sample answer
To help you develop your own answer to “walk me through your resume,” here’s an example of what you don’t want to do:
“I’ve wanted to be a librarian since I was 7, when I used to arrange all of my books at home in alphabetical order. Then, at elementary school, I used to spend my lunch hour in the school library, helping the librarian put books back on the shelves and tidy up. It was just such a lovely, relaxing place to be. I also volunteered in the library at my high school for a few years. At college I majored in Education, and I particularly enjoyed modules on linguistic diversity, ethics and literacy.
In terms of my work experience, I had jobs as a newspaper delivery girl and supermarket cashier in high school, and as a telesales operative and library assistant at college. I’ve been a volunteer at my local community library too.
This job would let me fulfill my childhood dream of working as a professional librarian, and spending my life surrounded by books.”
Now, here’s an example of what a strong answer to “walk me through your resume” looks like:
“I’ve always been dedicated to a career as a librarian, as you can see from the three years I spent volunteering in the school library during high school. This time spent volunteering gave me practical experience of working with library materials and resources, and even using library software like Lucidea Integrated Library Systems. In college, I majored in Education because I knew I wanted to work as a school librarian, and understood this degree would give me the knowledge needed to work with children in a school and classroom setting.
I also worked as a library assistant in college, which helped me learn about the customer-facing side of a librarian’s role. Since then, I’ve volunteered in my local community library, where I had the chance to develop a new, cost-efficient cataloguing and returns system. I’m sure this system could benefit the program here at Smith High School, given the budget cuts that schools in the district are facing.
Working at Smith High School would allow me to fulfill my ambition of making a real difference as a school librarian. It would let me put into practice my knowledge of running a library efficiently and cheaply, as well as giving me the chance to turn the library into a welcoming space to help students achieve.”
Finally, consider preparing for questions like “why did you leave your last job?“, especially if your resume features job-hopping or demonstrates a career change. Then, to help you transition smoothly from discussing what’s included on your resume to reaffirming your position as the ideal candidate, prepare a few why are you suitable for this job sample answers as well.